ANNAPOLIS —- The cold and rain defined Navy’s spring game Friday, ensuring a stalemate for much of the evening.
Little wonder, then, the winning score was provided by a defensive player.
Linebacker Caleb King collected a fumble in the end zone and Jon Teague connected on the ensuing extra point, lifting the Blue team (first team offense and defense) over the Gold team (reserves) 7-6 at frigid Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
“It may be cold during the season, and it was cold,” coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “But that’s football. Some guys are dropping some passes and doing stuff, but you have to be able to learn how to catch the ball when your fingers are frozen.”
For as pleased as Niumatalolo was with the 15 spring sessions, he probably won’t consider much of Friday’s proceedings a highlight.
Granted, it was difficult for the Midshipmen’s elusive quarterbacks to accomplish much while wearing noncontact jerseys, particularly starter Kriss Proctor. The senior played only three series, rushing for 22 yards and going 2-for-4 for 43 yards passing.
It was still a slog for Navy’s offense, which was without its top fullback, top two slotbacks, a likely starter at wide receiver and the favorite to win the left tackle job. The Mids missed field goals on each of Proctor’s series, and the teams were scoreless well into the third quarter.
Meanwhile, the Gold team struggled to sustain drives but still denied Navy’s usual starters chances to score throughout the game.
“I thought the Gold team, our younger guys, I thought they played with great energy,” Niumatalolo said. “It kind of looked like our team when we play a team we’re not supposed to beat. They played with great energy and the Blue team just kind of came to get through the scrimmage.”
Perhaps the most notable moment was Jarvis Cummings’ 44-yard pass to Jonathan Gazaille to set up the Gold team’s only score of the night. A play later, fullback Rob Lombardo scored from two yards out.
Cummings, a sophomore who is third on Navy’s depth chart at quarterback, received a little help from someone with experience with the Mids’ offense —- former star Ricky Dobbs.
“Ricky started calling the plays toward the second half and started telling me ‘What’s going to happen is the safety is going to fly out and the receiver’s going to be open down the middle,’” Cummings said. “Exactly what he said was there.”
It would be the only offensive scoring. King pounced on the second of consecutive fumbled snaps early in the fourth quarter, nudging the Mids’ starters ahead.
It wasn’t indicative of the progress Navy claimed to make throughout the last month. That was especially true of backup quarterback Trey Miller, who was named the team’s most improved player during spring ball.
Miller rushed for 15 yards and was 5-for-12 for 49 yards passing on the dreary evening, but said Navy is in solid shape as it segues into the summer.
“I don’t think we did pretty good today on offense,” Miller said. “We had an overall good spring. I think we still have a long way to go, but we’ll be fine.”
—- Patrick Stevens